I have been reading a couple of books on early Church and missiological history, and one of the most interesting and fascinating parts has been learning about the Roman Catholic Church. It was far more about political power and authority than about a passion for God. The unity they strived for was not so that they could be one in Christ, but so that their political power would stretch farther. It was a way of culture and order, not devotion to God.
Here is an interesting excerpt from the book about priests and marriage:
“The Church had taught for centuries that priests were not to be married. But while they could not marry legally, it was common for priests either to live in de facto marriages or have a series of concubines. In a curious reversal of what we would consider ‘morality’, the Church considered legal marriage of priests much worse than either of the other two situations. The problem in the eyes of the Church was that if a priest who was legally married acquired property, his children would be legitimate and would inherit it. If he was not legally married, his children would not be considered legitimate and any property he acquired would revert to the Church. So in part, it was an issue of property.”
The author also talks about a professor he once had who was an authority on medieval history and theology who taught him about the way things were in the medieval church, and how priests were essentially worthless:
“He said that the great majority of priests in the medieval church did not preach. Most were illiterate or semi-literate, and could barely recite the Lord’s Prayer and the Ave Maria and get through the mass in Latin. He said this was typical of the Medieval Church. The level of learning was very low.”
I could go on and on about many of the Catholic concepts like the sacraments, purgatory, venerated relics, the papacy, full indulgence (the promise of not having to go to purgatory), the crusades, etc. But, that would take a long time. Instead, I’ll point to a common theme that I see through all of this.
Movements like this result in a lack of studying and understanding the Bible. The study of scriptures and a passion for spreading the gospel is not mentioned anywhere in either of these books that I’m reading in any of the Roman Catholic sections. The second quote above shows that many priests of churches couldn’t even read the Bible. Where the Bible is not read, studied, and cherished by the leaders AND the followers, corruption will come.
[Quotes taken from “The Dynamics of Christian Mission: History Through A Missiological Perspective” by Paul Pierson.]